Write Now. Revise Later.

By Eric Owusu · July 19, 2014

Mountain climbing isn’t for everyone. It is not for the leisurely. It absolutely isn’t for people who are easily distracted. Mountains are for people who love climbing. Mountaintops are for people who love conquering. And people who are all about getting from the foot of the mountain to its apex usually don’t break every fifty feet to enjoy the view. They power through it and take in the sights at the top. They don’t have time to look at everything on their way up there. They’re anxious to plant their flag atop this mountain so they can climb the next one.

The same is true of writing a screenplay. Most screenplays have page counts of 60, 90, 120 pages or more. When writing one, it’s extremely easy to write one scene, an intriguing beat, and sit back and read what one has written. And read it again. And again. And maybe two more times. Rereading a captivating opening scene or flashback is nice, but having an entire rough draft done is even better. It’s best to get everything written out, and then some, then to go back and read and revise the living daylights out of it. Edit. Edit. And edit some more.

Maybe you want that ninety-minute film to be a ninety-five-page script. Writing out a page at a time and painstakingly going over it feels good in the moment, but all that enjoying takes time. It’s time that could be spent writing the next five pages. It’s easy to get caught up in what you’ve done because you’re proud you did it. But getting the whole thing done is an achievement that is far more fruitful. You get to sit back and revel in a full first draft of a script as opposed to simply reveling at the first act of one. You can finally put your sore hands and fingers to rest after conquering a mountain as opposed to resting stretched fingers after jotting down a molehill.

I started to wonder why mountain climbing isn’t the national pastime for any nation. It’s great exercise. It’s free. It’s exhilarating. But, as I said earlier, it’s not for everyone. It’s really hard to climb anything really, particularly a mountain. And only few people do it because most others are afraid. Many don’t like heights. Some don't like nature. Some are even scared of falling. But a lot times, the biggest fear is the fear of taking it all on. Mountains are overwhelming. And most people overestimate them, thinking they wouldn’t even know where to take their first step in order to climb it. The same holds true for writing, especially lengthy screenplays. 

Writing ninety pages is intimidating. To an inexperienced writer, writing a feature-length script is scarier than climbing Mount Rushmore. But just like climbers turn off their inhibitions and turn on their will to achieve and their muscles, so does the writer with a goal and a motivated set of fingers. You just have to turn off the worry, the concern, the apprehension, and turn on the spark that sent you to the keyboard to type out that idea you want so badly to make more than just that. If you plow through it, getting all the mistakes and overwritten dialogue out while composing the raw instinctual first-thoughts, you can go back and chisel out a polished piece of writing – after two or three more edits. But you can’t edit what you don’t have, so write something lengthy, take a step back, and pare it down to the best version of itself.

The worst thing a writer can do is not write. It’s in the title. Mountain climbers who sit on curbs aren’t necessarily living up to their titles either. But with both sets of people, when they do what they want to do, and nothing else, they get so much accomplished. So keep on it, writers. Don’t take a break. Don’t fix those run-on sentences. Just get it all down and worry about perfecting it later. Climb your mountain. There’s a great script waiting for you at the top.